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|Letters 33 and 34 :Henry's Lifestyle in London
Written by JulieW
(9/18/2007 8:23 a.m.)
Manydown was, of course, the home of the Biggs-Wither family: JA and Cassandra were friends with the daughters of the house Catherine and Althea.
While JA was staying there Edward brought Cassandra back to London, and she stayed with Henry and Eliza for three weeks.
Henry had recently, on January 24th, resigned his commission in the Oxfordshire Militia. He had been acting as Paymaster for the Oxfordshires, and now set himself up as an army agent ( he was agent for the Oxfordshire militia) and as a banker, with his office in Cleveland Court, St James's.
Here is a map of the area: Cleveland Court it is quite difficult to spot( it’s a tiny place) but you can see it- it is a tiny cutyard just of St James Place.Ive stayed at a hotel there and it is even now a very fashionalbe address.
His partner in this enterprise was Henry Maude, one of his military friends, and their firm was known as H.T. Austen and Co.
This was of course a very desirable, fashionable, business address, being close to the court at St James's, and many gentlemen's clubs and was sure to attract the attentions of rich officers attending court who would, no doubt, need the services of a bank ;-)
To give you some background to the area, here is a post I made about St James's Palace during the last P+P Group Read.
Henry and Eliza were now living at No. 24 Upper Berkeley Street, off Portman Square, and JA's letter 34 of this series was sent from Manydown to Cassandra at that address.
This is what JA's cousin Phylly Water had to say about Henry and Eliza's lifestyle in a letter she sent to the brother dated 4th June ,1801:
Seal, 4th June ,1801 –
I spent one day with our cousins the Henry Austens. She is much the same, but talks of retiring into Wales & resigning the world, in which he seems perfectly ready to agree. He has given up the Army. They live quite in style in Upper Berkeley Street, Portman Square.
"Live quite in style": hmm, that would I think be an underestimation.
JA certainly thought it quite high: her comment about the offices being a noteworthy tourist attraction is typical of her , don’t you think?
.I dare say you will spend a very pleasant three weeks in town. I hope you will see everything worthy of notice, from the Opera House to Henry's office in Cleveland Court; and I shall expect you to lay in a stock of intelligence that may procure me amusement for a twelvemonth to come.
The office premises in St James's would not be cheap-I should imagine they rented them.
And Portman Square was quite a smart London address. Here is the history of it:
Originally covering an area of 270 acres stretching from Oxford Street to Regents Canal, the land was acquired by Sir William Portman of Somerset, Lord Chief Justice to Henry VIII, in 1532. The land remained relatively undeveloped to 1755 when the main occupation in the area was pig farming, and the depositing of ‘night soil,’ but by 1820 the road system existed as it is today, and the original building development was largely completed.
The driving force behind the Estate’s rapid expansion was Edward Berkeley Portman: his knowledge of engineering and his irrepressibility changed the landscape of Georgian London.
After the Peace of Paris in1763 new blocks sprang up to the West of Cavendish Square, gradually filling the space defined by the Marylebone Road, the world’s first city by-pass, which was built to ease ‘traffic congestion’ on Oxford Street.
Henry William Portman developed 200 acres of meadow passed down from a Tudor ancestor. He started in 1764 with a square, which was to owe its popularity to buildings by Robert Adam and James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, the architect of Montagu House - built in the northwest corner of Portman Square for Mrs Elizabeth Montagu. This lady, who became particularly associated with the Square, called it the Montpelier of England, and said she ‘never enjoyed such health as since she came to live in it.’ Lizzy Montagu was an enigmatic and cultured woman, and her home became the meeting place for some of London’s most enlightened thinkers. She became a power in the literary world, and a founder of the Blue-Stocking Club, so named because of the informal blue stockings that many of the group wore. One of the rooms in her magnificent house was truly unconventional in that instead of wallpaper it was decorated with ostrich feathers. In addition to her sponsorship of the arts Montagu also had a reputation for philanthropy. On May 1st each year she put on an annual feast for all the chimney sweeps in London. She did this because a child of a family member had been kidnapped by chimney sweeps and was restored to the family by accident when discovered working in her own mansion.
Henry and Eliza lived at Number 24 Upper Berkeley street which as you can see from this section from the Regency A-Z, ran to the left of Portman Square.
Here is a picture of Portman Square circa 1800 : you can see Berkley street leading off from the Square in the top left.
Eliza and Henry's house is till standing: it is now The Hadleigh Hotel.
Here are a couple of images of it, and here is a link to its website.
I think it safe to say that the interior would have been altered considerably since Henry and Eliza's time ;-)
However one thing to note about their life in London is that , probably due to Eliza's influence they did nt tmake do with a cook/housekeeper, or even an english male cook. No, they employed a French chef, one Monsieur Halavant.
You will have a turkey from Steventon while you are there, and pray note down how many full courses of exquisite dishes M. Halavant converts it into.
Goodness alone knows what they paid him…..He would not have been cheap to employ and the cost of the ingredients for his sauces! LOL Here is a post I made at L+T about men cooks in the 18th century fill you in on the details
Goodness, talk about living high off the hog…..
Something that has occurred to me in this GR: do you think it possible that JA had this in mind when she had the ridiculous Mrs Bennet over-exaggerating and crowing over Darcy's riches in Chapter 54 ?:
"Well girls," said she, as soon as they were left to themselves, "what say you to the day? I think everything has passed off uncommonly well, I assure you. The dinner was as well dressed as any I ever saw. The venison was roasted to a turn -- and everybody said, they never saw so fat a haunch. The soup was fifty times better than what we had at the Lucas's last week; and even Mr. Darcy acknowledged that the partridges were remarkably well done; and I suppose he has two or three French cooks at least.
I leave it to yourselves to determine……;-)
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